Contractor: RDX level in new well has two-times allowable limit

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Drinking water > N3B contractor assures council drinking water is safe from RDX

Los Alamos contractor N3B confirmed Tuesday that it has found twice the allowable New Mexico Environment Department’s limit of RDX, a chemical used in the manufacturing of high explosives, at a monitoring well on lab property.

The new monitoring well is located at a cleanup site at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in well R-69 at Tech Area 16.
The area is located in the southwestern area of the lab property

The well had 16 parts per billion of the RDX chemical, the contractor reported to the Los Alamos County Council Tuesday.

Another well at the site, R-68, had already been tested by the contractor. That well contained 14 parts per billion.
N3B received the new monitoring results Tuesday.

NMED’s allowable tapwater screening level limit is 7.02 parts per billion.
RDX Project Manager Peter McGuire told councilors that the new findings pose no danger to the public and steps have been taken to keep the RDX away from the public drinking water supply.

“The Department of Energy also samples for the public supply wells. RDX has never been detected in any of the public supply wells or any of the wells that are outside the network of wells,” McGuire said.

Danny Katzman chief scientist for the water programs at N3B, said the only thing the new findings change is how frequently well monitoring is conducted.

“We are also going to continue to monitor that well on a monthly basis so we’ll be seeing a lot of results coming in soon,” Katzman said, adding that will continue for the next five months.

Wells R-68 and R-69 are part of a network of monitoring wells that were installed about 20 years ago to monitor the contamination at the site. N3B is currently getting ready to submit a report to the Environment Department in August where a determination can be made whether to treat the contamination or contain it so it doesn’t spread

“In addition, there will be a numerical model, and that numerical model will allow us to assess for the potential of the long-term migration of RDX in the regional aquifer. What will be the footprint of the RDX contamination in five, 10, 20 years? The numerical model will help us assess that,” McGuire said. “It will also give us information in terms of whether remediation is necessary, and if it is necessary, then there will be a plan that will be developed and proposed.”

The DOE Environmental Management Department in Los Alamos has worked since 2015 on a plan for cleaning up the decades-old, concentration of RDX, a chemical used by the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the manufacturing high explosives.